My Ministry as an Augustinian
by Fr. Jim Halstead, OSA
On June 30, 2014, Fr. James Halstead finished 27 years on the faculty at DePaul University. Both as a teacher and administrator, Fr. Jim has won an “Excellence in Teaching” award (1993), the “John Courtney Murray” award (2012), and the “Spirit of DePaul” award (2014). In 2010, he was named “Distinguished Honors Professor.” Fr. Jim was the first Director of DePaul’s Program in Catholic Studies and, for 12 years, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies. In addition to his work at DePaul, Fr. Jim has taught at Loyola University, Chicago, for agencies of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and in Lithuania, Greece, and Japan. For twenty years he did sacramental ministry at St. Nicholas Parish in Evanston, IL. In addition to doing numerous mission appeals for the Peruvian missions, Jim has been a community treasurer and prior, a provincial counselor, and, in Fall, 2013, Interim Formation Director at St. Augustine Friary. Presently on research leave from DePaul, Jim currently serves as a member of the Formation Team and Regent of Studies at St. Augustine Friary, on several interfaith advisory boards and committees in Chicago and on the Board of Trustees of the Catholic Theological Union and Villanova University. He returns to DePaul classroom in Spring, 2015.
A scientific truth:
There are somewhere between 100 billion and 225 billion galaxies in the visible universe. On a very dark night, with the naked eye, one can see a small corner of one galaxy, our own Milky Way. Moreover, in addition to what we can see with the Hubble telescope, there is the greater part of the universe - the “dark matter.”
A religious truth:
The God who is creating all that is, “things visible and invisible,” lovingly cares for this planet: the birds of the air, the fishes of the sea, and every hair of each human head. Further, that same God is incarnate in human flesh, willing that we personally know Divine Love and live in that Creative Love with all other men and women. That’s Good News!! The Good News and demanding challenge that I try to live, celebrate, preach, and teach as an Augustinian.
I first began to engage adult Catholic faith in August, 1967. I had just finished Summer Latin School with Fr. Henry Maibusch, O.S.A., at Holland, Michigan. In a week, I would enter the novitiate in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, with 48 other novices. At an outdoor symphony concert as I looked into the summer sky and saw the stars, I experienced a creative, benevolent presence. Like St. Paul being knocked off his horse, that experience of beauty and awe began a journey that continues 48 years later.
Community life, priestly ministry:
...studying, preaching, and teaching, leading prayer, and advocating for justice – friendships, and the patience of confreres has deepened my religious experience and challenged me to live more thoughtfully and enthusiastically. St. Monica Novitiate, Tolentine College, the Catholic Theological Union and, after four years as a parish priest, the theology faculty of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, have helped me speak carefully of religious mysteries, deepen my understanding of Christian thought, and accompany others – mostly young people – into the freedom, ideals and demands of discipleship.
When I finished doctoral studies at Leuven, the then-provincial, Fr. Karl Gersbach, O.S.A., told me to find a job. In 1987 I joined the faculty at DePaul University, the largest Catholic university in the United States. My work at DePaul, as well as my liturgical service throughout the world, have been a challenging, joyous and enriching combination for me and, I trust, for others as well.
Like other members of the Province, the externals of my life are unique. The essentials remain Augustinian. With Augustine I often pray, “Narrow is the mansion of my soul. Enlarge it, that You may enter in. It is ruinous, repair it.”